Bernie Fraser warns against more monetary policy stimulus

Bernie Fraser warns against more monetary policy stimulus
Bernie Fraser warns against more monetary policy stimulus

The former RBA governor Bernie Fraser has warned that more monetary policy stimulus won't be able to boost growth or reinvigorate inflation following last week's surprise interest rate cut.

Fraser said he was not "in the slightest" bit concerned about letting inflation undershoot the range for a lengthy period of time, according to the Australian Financial Review.

This contradicts the central bank's quick action against signs of deflation in the March quarter.

Considered the architect of the Reserve Bank's 2 to 3 percent inflation target, Fraser said the economic focus should be moved to government-led stimulus rather than more interest rate cuts.

"I don't see myself as fiddling with monetary policy to deal with the deflation problem," he told The Australian Financial Review. 

"I don't see monetary policy as solving the problem with zero, or practically zero, interest rates or quantitative easing. It can't get things moving."

The potential for more official rate cuts and low inflation has prompted some economists to suggest that the Reserve Bank is nearing the limits of its powers. They are at risk of sliding into the same zero-rate constraints that have left European and Japanese central banks unable to revive their economies.

Despite suggesting he had a "certain fondness" for the Reserve Bank's inflation target, he told the Australian Financial Review he "wouldn't want people to be tempted to start adjusting that."

Fraser spoke out following the Reserve Banks issue of the weakest inflation outlook since the target range was introduced by himself in the early 1990s.

Officials are predicting that price increases would remain below two percent through to 2018, despite at least one more rate cut.

Speculation suggests the Reserve Bank will seek to reverse slowing inflation by cutting the cash rate again in October.

Currency traders predict the extra cut will push the dollar as low as US67¢ from US73.77¢

Fraser said the burden of spurring economic demand should urgently fall on fiscal policy and infrastructure spending by government.

"The Reserve Bank should be talking to the government and saying there is not much more we can do on monetary policy, that this is a classic situation for being more active on fiscal policy.

"Australia shouldn't worry too much about debt and deficit at this stage," he said.

"We need some growth."

He also criticised the board for creating confusion around the reasons for last week's sudden rate cut.

"I was a bit surprised by the rate cut on budget day because of the ambiguity that such a move is likely to create in the public mind," he said.

"Is it really lower inflation that's provoking the Reserve Bank or concern about the weakness of the economy?

"I wouldn't myself have been concerned about a short period of under 2 per cent inflation – not in the slightest."

He said the lack of confidence in the Reserve Bank is the bigger concern based on the strength of the economy.

"[It] suggests to me that they too have a few concerns about the outlook for activity."

Fraser expects inflation will increase thanks to an increase in demand caused by the lower exchange rate with the currency falling by more than a quarter over recent years

"We've only had one quarter of negative inflation.

"To me that's nothing to be unduly concerned about and the exchange rate is coming down, so that might stimulate some demand, but more directly it will add to inflation."

Tags: 
Economic Stimulus

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